Sunday, 23 September 2007

Geoff Klock/Casanova: A Visible Core

While I’m a fiend for subtext (as my writing on this blog no doubt shows), I’m also a great fan of critics and artists who’re good at detailing the complexities of the surface. Sometimes I feel that I skip over the obvious stuff too much, to the extent that I start to feel like one of the poet-villains in Kenneth Koch’s ‘Fresh Air’ -- you know, the ones who can’t smile at anything unless they can see some sort of deep metaphor for human suffering in it.

Geoff Klock’s weblog is a pretty great remedy for that particular problem. Klock is good at telling you exactly why he thinks a comic or TV show works or doesn't work in a manner that is both witty and well considered. He can certainly do subtext when he wants to, but aesthetics seems to be his primary concern, and I appreciate that.

It’s funny that I should praise Klock here, given that I found his book How to Read Superhero Comics and Why disappointing precisely because he didn’t get deep enough into what all of that interconnectivity meant. I guess I was hoping that Klock’s appreciation of Harold Bloom’s poetic theories would extend to an approximation of Bloom’s fierceness, of his investment in poetry as a matter of existential urgency. Instead, Klock’s book offers a smart, excited account of the content of and connections between various comic books, which wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

Klock’s blog improves upon the good qualities of his book – even when I don’t agree with him, I still find him entertaining, and his appreciation of comic such as Casanova and Grant Morrison’s Justice League Classified makes me enjoy the comics in question just that little bit more.

Sometimes I want deconstruction or grand emotional resonance; sometimes I just want a better idea of why I find myself thrilled by art and, by extension, the world.

Related: since I’ve just mentioned Klock’s favourite comic Casanova, I’d like to note how much I like the backmatter that appends each issue. Not only does it provide space for a variety of behind the scenes sketches and doodles, but it also allows writer Matt Fraction to talk about the production of the book, and thus make visible the framework of each issue. Alongside other commentary-heavy publications like Fell, Criminal, Pulp Hope and Phonogram, Casanova is responsible for re-engaging me with mainstream comic books not written by Grant Morrison or Peter Milligan. What can I say: while I’m not going to bow down to a writer's authority, I’m as hot for process as Harold Bloom is for poetry! Blame Jeff Noon and Grant Morrison (him again!) for filling my formative years with metafictional adventure stories that made writing seem sexy, dangerous, and even urgent.

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